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Villagers in the Solomon Islands kill dolphins in pay dispute

Mass Slaughter
© Solomon Star
The mass slaughter of the dolphins by hunters on Malaita Island has caused international condemnation and outrage.
Up to 900 dolphins have been killed by villagers in the Solomon Islands, who claim it was an act of retaliation for not being paid money they were promised.

The mass slaughter of the bottlenose dolphins has caused international condemnation and outrage. But those parties involved are putting the blame on each other; with villagers saying they were underpaid by the Earth Island Institute - an American-based group that works to conserve ecosystems around the world.

People from the village of Fanalei, on the island of Malaita, claim that the institute had made a deal to pay up to S$2.4 million ($400,000) to stop the killing of dolphins. However only S$700,000 had been received, villagers say.

The killing of dolphins is seen as a traditional practice on the island and provides meat and income for villagers. Dolphin teeth are also traditionally used to pay a bride's price.

Cheeseburger

Burger King drops Irish supplier after horse meat found in burgers

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© AFP Photo
Burger King has ditched an Irish supplier of beef that is at the centre of a food scare after horse meat was discovered in beefburgers sold in Britain and Ireland, where it is deemed to be a taboo.

The US fast-food giant said Wednesday it has decided to replace all Silvercrest beef products in Britain and Ireland with those from another supplier.

"This is a voluntary and precautionary measure," Burger King said in a statement.

"We are working diligently to identify suppliers that can produce 100 percent pure Irish and British beef products that meet our high quality standards."

Heart - Black

Mississippi's only abortion clinic faces closure in six weeks due to new state law

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© Flickr user NatalieMaynor
Jackson clinic told it could be shut down in six weeks because it has failed to comply with controversial state legislation

Mississippi's only remaining abortion clinic, which won an eleventh-hour temporary reprieve from closure last summer, has been told it could be shut down in six weeks after it was found to be in violation of a restrictive new state law this month.

Time is now running out for the clinic, which is in the middle of a legal battle to prove the new law is unconstitutional.

The Jackson Women's Health Organisation, which has become a focus of the bitter fight for abortion rights across the nation, successfully won an injunction in July which allowed its medical staff time to try to comply with the law. But the injunction has run out, and, earlier this month, the facility's owners were told by officials from the Department of Health they were not in compliance with House Bill 1390, passed and signed by Republican legislators in April.

Mississippi lawmakers have openly stated that the legislation, which requires the clinic's doctors to gain admitting privileges at local hospitals, is aimed at closing JWHO and thus ending abortion in the state.

Attention

15,000 crocs escape from South African farm

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© AFP Photo
About 15,000 crocodiles have escaped from a farm in South Africa amid heavy rains and flooding, local daily Beeld reported.

The predators sprung from the Rakwena Crocodile Farm in the far north of the country when owners were forced to open the gates to prevent a storm surge.

Bizarro Earth

Breast slaps and vagina bleach in Bangkok: Thais suffer for beauty

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© AFP Photo
From breast-slapping and gold thread face-lifts, to vaginal whitening soaps and olive-oil penis enlargements, image-obsessed Thais are going to ever increasing extremes in the quest for beauty.

The colourful self-proclaimed pioneer of breast-slapping says her unusual technique allows clients to boost their bust by at least one bra size without surgery.

"This is the beauty by nature - one million percent guaranteed," the eccentric 46-year-old, who has changed her name to Khunyingtobnom or Madam breast-slapper, told AFP.

Her work is also extremely lucrative, charging $600 for two 15 minute sessions covering one breast each and a premium face-slapping service - which she claims can induce slimness - costing about $1,000.

Eye 1

Los Angeles teacher arrested for sexually abusing 'at least 20 children'

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© Screenshot via KTLA
Former Los Angeles teacher Robert Pimentel
A former Los Angeles Unified School District employee was arrested Wednesday on charges that he sexually abused "at least 20 children" and one adult co-worker, KTLA-TV reported Thursday morning.

Police launched an investigation last year after two alleged victims came forward claiming that 57-year-old Robert Pimentel, who's worked for the district for nearly 40 years, sexually touched them both over and under their clothing.

The LAUSD superintendent said he removed the teacher as soon as the allegations were relayed to him, at which point Pimentel retired and began taking his pension before the district could fire him. The principle at the school, George De La Torre Jr. Elementary, was also removed.

Heart - Black

Military trial of 17-year old Amal Hamamdeh from Mufakarah. Charge: Spilling water on soldier

Amal Hamamdeh
© Efrat Nakash
As reported here, during home demolitions in the cave-dweller village of Mufakarah, two young women who resisted nonviolently were arrested and charged with "assaulting soldiers" under the Israeli Occupation's draconian martial law. The older of the two, Sausan Hamamdeh, reached a plea bargain in December resulting in a fine. When reporting on that development, we were fairly confident that her 17-year-old cousin Amal Hamamdeh would see her charges dropped. After all, she just tried to hand Sausan a water bottle to wash her pepper-sprayed eyes, and when soldiers interfered some water were spilled on them. We were wrong.

The first court session in Amal's trial took place Sunday, Jabuary 15th 2012, at the military court and prison base of Ofer, in the West Bank north of Jerusalem. Charges pressed by the military prosecution against Amal include throwing water and spitting at a soldier, and swearing at the security forces. The defense, by Amal's attorney Neri Ramati (a Jewish Israeli lawyer, partner at the Gabi Lasky law firm), decided to admit pouring water on the soldier, and reject the allegations of spitting and swearing.

On the day of the arrest, while in transit to the Kiryat Arba police station, Amal was sexually harassed by one of the soldiers sitting with her in the army jeep. At the police station, the interrogators took advantage of her inexperience and lack of access to counsel (martial law is *very* convenient for interrogators and prosecutors), and managed to make her confess to throwing water at a soldier during the demolition. The next court session in Amal's trial has been scheduled for February 5th, 2012.

Crusader

In malpractice case, Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren't people - Lawsuit against Catholic Health Initiatives appealed to Colorado Supreme Court

hospital
© Mark Coggins via Flickr
Lori Stodghill was 31-years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year's Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill's obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Stodghill's husband Jeremy, a prison guard, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of himself and the couple's then-two-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Staples should have made it to the hospital, his lawyers argued, or at least instructed the frantic emergency room staff to perform a caesarian-section. The procedure likely would not have saved the mother, a testifying expert said, but it may have saved the twins.

The lead defendant in the case is Catholic Health Initiatives, the Englewood-based nonprofit that runs St. Thomas More Hospital as well as roughly 170 other health facilities in 17 states. Last year, the hospital chain reported national assets of $15 billion. The organization's mission, according to its promotional literature, is to "nurture the healing ministry of the Church" and to be guided by "fidelity to the Gospel." Toward those ends, Catholic Health facilities seek to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church authored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Those rules have stirred controversy for decades, mainly for forbidding non-natural birth control and abortions. "Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life 'from the moment of conception until death,'" the directives state. "The Church's defense of life encompasses the unborn."

Dollar

South African inflation accelerates as food prices climb

South African inflation accelerated to a seven-month high of 5.7 percent in December as food prices rose, supporting expectations the Reserve Bank will keep borrowing costs unchanged tomorrow.

The inflation rate climbed from 5.6 percent in November, Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa said on its website today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 23 economists was 5.7 percent. Prices advanced 0.2 percent in the month.

All 21 economists surveyed by Bloomberg predict the Reserve Bank will keep the benchmark repurchase rate at 5 percent tomorrow to support the economy while curbing price pressures from a weaker rand and rising food costs. The central bank's goal is to keep inflation within a range of 3 percent to 6 percent.

Cheeseburger

Droughts, rising food prices predicted for 2013

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In the dead of winter, planting crops is the last thing on most people's minds. But droughts are still raging across the American Midwest, causing consternation among farmers about their prospects for the spring.

If conditions don't improve, food prices will likely remain high this year after a record 2012 for grain futures.

The U.S. National Weather Service released its drought forecast last week, showing persistent or worsening dryness in the Midwest and the southern third of the nation.